Hockey World Cup: Rourkela Stadium opens, huge cash reward for Indian players

Indian players will earn US$125,000 (£105,000) each if they win the Men’s World Cup for the host country. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced the incentive after the opening of the new hockey complex in Rourkela, the city hosting matches alongside Bhubaneswar in the 2023 World Cup.

The 15th edition kicks off next Friday, with Rourkela hosting 20 of the 44 matches at this year’s tournament, the second in a row to be held on Indian soil.

“It will inspire many aspiring players across the country and around the world. The stadium would be Odisha’s greatest gift to the nation,” Patnaik said after the opening of the stadium, which has a capacity of around 21,000.

Patnaik had claimed the international stadium, named after freedom fighter Birsa Munda, as the biggest hockey venue in the world.

But that claim has been disputed, with the Chandigarh Hockey Stadium said to have a capacity of 30,000, while the National Stadium in Lahore in Pakistan holds 45,000. However, Rourkela is certainly set to host international hockey on a regular basis.

The stadium was completed in around 15 months after being sanctioned in February 2021 by Patnaik.

In November, Hockey India announced a ‘historic decision’ to award cash prizes for every victory of the men’s and women’s national teams.

In a statement, the new policy was called a “big morale boost” in which players will be guaranteed to receive cash incentives every year. But this World Cup prize certainly eclipses their original ‘cash for wins’ policy.

The Odisha chief also opened the World Cup Village complex, adjacent to the stadium and training ground, which has 225 rooms and will house the competing teams.

There is a connecting tunnel between the dressing rooms and the training ground, while the sports complex also has a fitness center and a swimming pool.

The 16 nations are commonplace when arriving in Bhubaneswar for the warm-up matches. Belgium are defending champions and have the most experienced team.